In her first month, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin — the first “Miss America 2.0” to be crowned — has been on “Good Morning America,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and has made public appearances at jewelry stores, the Metropolitan Opera and several keynote speaking events.
But not everything is sparkling within the Miss America Organization.
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“I think first and foremost, it’s important to understand that there has been serious concern for this longtime, iconic nonprofit,” said Jennifer Vaden Barth, a former MAO board member now leading the charge to remove chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper.
It’s not the first time the MAO has been at odds with the loyal stakeholders of Miss America, and it’s the second call for leadership to step down in the past 12 months.
In December 2017, the MAO dealt with the public ousting of CEO Sam Haskell and several board members over a sexist email scandal. Carlson, Miss America 1989, stepped in to run the organization.
Those closest to the pageant thought the outlook was promising until a number of decisions, including the elimination of the swimwear competition, led to several key stakeholders losing hope in the pageant’s future.
In June, 22 state pageant directors, including New Jersey, signed a “vote of no confidence” letter, citing a lack of transparency with the board of trustees’ actions.
“We need good, strong, ethical management and leadership there, in the right way, working with state and local organizations, and we don’t have that,” said Barth. “All the brand changing in the world can’t change that.”
Disagreements between state directors and national leadership continued throughout pageant season. Board members and national staff left their positions. And more of the behind-the-curtain actions of the MAO were revealed in August when Miss America 2018 Cara Mund penned a letter claiming she was bullied by MAO employees and leadership and felt she was underutilized during her year.
Mund even told CNN there needed to be a leadership change within the MAO.
Her allegations of workplace bullying were investigated by Texas-based human resources consulting firm Employment Practices Solutions. The final report, released the day after the Miss America 2019 pageant, said Mund’s claims were unfounded.
Mund did not respond to requests for further comment on her statements.